Bush thinks Clinton will win Democratic nomination

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WASHINGTON, Sep 24 (Reuters) President George W Bush believes Democrat Hillary Clinton will win her party's presidential nomination but that the Republican nominee will beat her in the November 2008 election, a new book said.

Bush broke his silence on offering opinions about the presidential campaign in an interview for ''The Evangelical President,'' a book by a reporter for The Examiner newspaper of Washington, Bill Sammon.

The Examiner published a story about the book today.

Bush, who replaced Clinton's husband, Bill, in the White House in 2001, said he cited the former first lady because ''she's got a national presence, and this is becoming a national primary.'' ''And therefore the person with the national presence, who has got the ability to raise enough money to sustain an effort in a multiplicity of sites, has got a good chance to be nominated,'' he said.

Bush, whose public approval rating is about 30 per cent, has generally kept out of the race to succeed him in the White House, saying he did not want to become ''pundit-in-chief.'' White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush changed his mind because ''it's difficult to not talk about the '08 election. There's a lot of interest in it. And it does have consequence.'' She added that ''the bottom line is that it really doesn't matter what the president thinks about who will win the Democratic primary. There's going to be a showdown at the O K Corral and they'll figure out who's going to be the nominee,'' and that Bush plans to campaign vigorously for the Republican.

Bush told the book's author that he is convinced Clinton will be defeated by the Republican nominee.

Clinton, a US senator from New York, has a wide lead in the polls over top rivals Sen Barack Obama and former Sen John Edwards.

The Edwards camp took issue with Bush's comments.

''Putting aside Bush's lack of political acumen, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are looking for a nominee and a president who will deliver honest leadership and real change, and there is no candidate better able to deliver that John Edwards,'' said Edwards spokeswoman Colleen Murray.

Many Republicans believe Clinton will be seen as a divisive figure and will serve to unite Republicans disenchanted by Bush's presidency.

''I think our candidate can beat her. But it's going to be a tough race,'' Bush said. ''I will work to see to it that a Republican wins and therefore don't accept the premise that a Democrat will win. I truly think the Republicans will hold the White House.'' Sammon wrote that other Bush officials were less certain about a favorable Republican outcome.

''It's going to be a very close election,'' former top Bush adviser Karl Rove said.

Vice President Dick Cheney said the election ''could go either way.'' ''Right now, we're sort of in the area where we're pretty evenly balanced on both sides,'' he told Sammon.

Reuters GT VP0014

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